April Come She Will

promise of seasonsI recently heard an old Simon and Garfunkel song called “April Come She Will” and was instantly reminded not only of how beautiful a tune it is, but also how true. There is much debate over what the song means… from the natural evolution of a short-lived love affair likened to the changing of the seasons, to a metaphor for the actual brevity of life itself. Here are the lyrics… you can decide for yourself:

April Come She Will

April, comes she will,
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain.
May, she will stay,
Resting in my arms again.

June, she’ll change her tune.
In restless walks she’ll prowl the night.
July, she will fly,
And give no warning to her flight.

August, die she must.
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold.
September, I’ll remember.
A love once new has now grown old.

Any of the theories as to its meaning would work for me, but the snow on the ground, the shorter days, the layers of clothing I pile on every day or the space heater cranking away at my feet lead me to think about the seasons and how they change. I reflect upon the uncanny way each one has of representing a new phase or marking the visceral passage of time.

The inevitability of change… the promise of seasons is the only thing we can truly count on in this life. What is that saying? “The only constant is change?” … or something like that. The marching on of the seasons is reliable. No matter what is happening in our lives at any given moment — the backdrops of April, May, June, July, August, September and so on rarely change.

April comes and thaws and fosters life with rain. May follows and we are so grateful to see her again. With her flowers and warmth we graciously hang on to every last drop of sun she offers. June finds us tiring in the heat with days that last so long they’ll draw us into the night before we ever even know it is upon us.

July goes so fast with its high blue skies and holidays—like a month-long celebration—we’ll truly wonder where she’s gone by the time August interrupts. She gently reminds us that soon it will be time to go back. Back to school, back to work, back inside as the days grow shorter, darker… colder. September, we will remember, all the life and love and laughter that came with the start of April’s rain.

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Harvest of the Senses

Like kamikazes sacrificially plummeting from the sky, I watched some of the first leaves fall to earth yesterday. Which always makes me sad. Though I cannot blame them… It’s been a long, hot, thirsty summer and frankly I am amazed at their capacity to have held on this long with little to no liquid nourishment from above.

Autumn is without a doubt my favorite season as it unwaveringly causes me to become reflective. For some, reflection comes with the arrival of the New Year… 365 pre-packaged days bursting with possibility. Or perhaps it is spring that stirs within others dreams of opportunity and renewal. But for me, there is no time of year where change is as palpable as in the fall.

If you will, consider how all five of our senses are engaged during the transition that accompanies fall…

The wind feels cooler against our skin that—not long ago bare—is now covered with softer, warmer fabrics.

The air smells crisper, edged with the saccharine scent of our biological world as it breaks down around us.

Our palette changes to accommodate warmer things, tasting both spicy and sweet.

Our sight is continually stimulated by the brilliant colors and shifting shades of the leaves, grasses and the fields of the harvest.

Our surroundings grow quieter and still as the cool weather begins to slow us down. And all that can be heard is the distant falling, rustling and crunching of the leaves as they give themselves over to Time.

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My Air-Conditioned Life

A fat, lazy fly buzzed around my face as a large bead of sweat began it’s slow journey down the center of my back, stopping at my waistband. My forehead was soaked, my neck sticky and I could not stand the sensation of anything, I mean ANYTHING touching my skin.   

The air was as hot and thick and still as I have ever experienced with a heat index soaring well above one-hundred. Trying my hardest to make polite conversation, the faces before me began to blur and my head started to spin as I began to totally and completely lose my shit.

I excused myself from the table—eyes darting around for some form of escape… ANY form of escape—and I moved closer to the edge of the pavilion. It was then that I began to entertain a multitude of wild imaginings including the tearing off of my clothes as I headed straight into the woods to roll around in some mud like a pig on a sweltering, summer day.

I have led, what you might call an “air-conditioned life.”

In all of my adult life I have never had to work in a non-A/C environment or inhabit a non-A/C abode. Granted, I grew up in a home without A/C but in northern Ohio that wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. And I was just a kid who had yet to develope my intolerance to discomfort.

I have a career which includes sitting for hours at a time in a cushy chair in a perfectly temperature-controlled environment… never breaking a sweat (except for perhaps in the occasional staff meeting).

Those who know me best a.k.a. those who have had to live with me learn fairly early on that I have what you might call a “narrow window of comfort” that exists somewhere between 68-72 degrees fahrenheit. Some of them go so far as to consider this behavior “fussy” or “high maintenance” but naturally I disagree.

No I prefer to think of it as being in touch with my “optimum environmental performance requirement.” And what could possibly be wrong with that?

Rats, Lies and Capybaras

I like to think that I can spot a phony when I see one or smell a sham a mile away. However, drawn in by his lopsided, glossy, poster board and magic marker sign containing lofty promises of pure zoological freakdom, I somehow failed to do so.

Handing over my money to the toothless, mulleted man, I walked halfway into the dimly-lit tent and spotted the object of my search. It was then and there—partially down the pathway, blocking traffic—I stopped dead in my tracks, turned swiftly on my heels and called him out.

“Excuse me!” I shouted backwards toward the way I’d come. “This is NOT a RAT. It is a CAPYBARA! I just saw one of these on the National Geographic channel! Your sign is a big, fat lie.” I declared with an air of superiority that I A. knew what a capybara actually WAS and B. at the notion of exposing him for the liar that he obviously was.

“No ma’am,” he said with a hillbilly drawl. “I ain’t lyin’. I told ya’ll it’d be like watchin’ the National Geographic channel LIIIIIIVE!” he hollered back with extra enthusiastic emphasis placed on the long “I” in ‘live’ for full effect.

I’d been duped. I’d fallen prey to the circus sideshow sales pitch and been fooled. I had drunk the Kool-Aid and was now exactly $3 poorer than I was before ever stepping foot in the place. But before I go on and on about my deep disappointment upon feeling cheated, let me take you back to the beginning…

It was a hot, summer night in southern Ohio and four of us gals on a weekend-warrior-retreat had decided to leave our wilderness cabin and check out the nearest municipality. Logan, Ohio (population 7,152) is the county seat of Hocking County — an area rich with natural and geological wonders that draws tourists from all over the country who come to explore beautiful Hocking Hills State Park.

And on this particular summer night, as we happened to be passing through, Logan just happened to be having their Annual Washboard Music Festival complete with sweet-and-fatty fair food, face-painting booths, colorful characters peddling their wares, an obnoxious train ride for the young ‘uns and a sampling of carnival games.

Immediately at the front entrance of the street fair, I was confronted by a large sign announcing the presence of the “World’s Largest Rat.” Oh yes, just on the other side of the canvas walls of the shiftiest-looking tent I’d ever seen was a whopping 100-lb. rat… and I HAD to see it.

I’d left my purse at the cabin so I tugged on the arm of one of my girlfriends with all of the gusto of a six-year-old harboring a wicked hankering for some cotton candy. I begged her to not only pay my way, but to go inside WITH me so as not to be alone in my curious-on-the-verge-of-hysterical, idiotic stupor.

She obliged and we wandered in. And you know the rest. But the reason for my great disappointment was that I had SOOOO hoped to see an enormous, 100-lb. RAT, fully outfitted with soft grey fur, a long thick pink tail, shiny black eyes the size of golf balls, a wiggly nose, teeth like a lioness and whiskers the length of a yard stick.

I was NOT expecting to see something that although IN the rodent FAMILY… did not look like anything remotely close to a giant sewer rat capable of terrorizing the subways of Manhattan.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure who to be more angry with… Myself for being so stupid as to think that this awesome freak of nature would actually be in Logan, OH (population 7,152)… Or Mullet Man who sold me on the idea with his flashy, homemade signs and toothless grin?

Now some of you might be saying: “Joanna, it WAS a giant rodent… to-MA-to, to-MAW-to. Why can’t you just let it go?” But I simply CANNOT let it go, at least not until I’ve told my story and shared with you my much-deserved feelings of deception, anger and disillusionment at the crooked capitalist empire that is the carnival sideshow industry.

And if, per chance, the “World’s Largest Rat” should pay a visit to a small, hick-town community near you… You’ve been warned. Hang on to your money and consider this your cautionary “tail.”

This is a rat.

THIS is a capybara. Note: It is NOT a rat.

Glory Days

Lately I’ve become rather entranced by a popular song on the radio. I can’t seem to get enough of it. And no, contrary to the title, it is not a Springsteen song. On my drive to and from the office I frantically search the stations hoping to catch it right at the beginning or that it will be coming on any second.

If I switch to a station and find that it is already playing I am immediately thrilled unless it is at the very end. In which case I inevitably pound my fists on the steering wheel and let loose a blue streak of R-rated language. I begin the desperate search all over again and miraculously, on occasion, I catch it just as it starts.

It is completely possible that in the span of less than one mile my mood will go from bitter disgust to absolute delight. I know… I have some moderate to severe mood issues… but whatever.

Wondering what the song is?

It is Someone Like You by Adele. And although I love the entire song musically, there is really only one verse that grabs me personally by the gut and doesn’t let go until long after the final notes have resolved and faded…

You know, how the time flies.

Only yesterday, was the time of our lives.

We were born and raised in a summer haze.

Bound by the surprise of our glory days.

What a perfect way to capture the sentiment of the passage of time and the disappearance of childhood hopes and dreams. The concept that our youth is as fleeting as a summer is so true. I remember vividly the infinite hope and excitement that filled my younger years as I waited with bated breath for what was to come. In those years… I was sure it would be nothing short of spectacular!

For me, the verse conjures up images of crystal clear water rushing over young feet and legs — browned by the sun… Lazy summer afternoons lying in the grass, the sound of a friend’s laughter mixing with my own and filling the air… Long drives to the middle of nowhere surrounded by the flashing of fire flies… Endless talks about boys and what “HE” would be like… Hearts full of the knowledge that whoever he was, wherever he was… he would be perfect.

The older I get, the more aware I become of the brevity of youth. But I know in my heart that although life is short like a mere summer haze—in what remains of my song—I hope there are still plenty more glory days.

While The Leaves Are Still Green

After eleven years in the desert, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about coming home to Ohio is seeing all of the green. Don’t get me wrong, the desert has it’s own distinct beauty with wide open skies fringed with colorful mountains, and long, long welcoming stretches of road that unfold and roll out in front of you wherever you turn your wheels… But the desert earth is brown. This time of year in Northeastern Ohio, it seems like the whole landscape has been draped in varying shades of green velvet and I can’t seem to take my eyes off of it. It captivates me! It is like I am seeing it for the very first time. I grew up with it all around me, but I never really SAW it until I went away.

For a few weeks I have been intending to grab the camera early on a Saturday morning and take some photos of the lush green that has enveloped everything… The farm fields, the rolling hillsides, the thick and towering trees, the mossy embankments and the rows upon rows of golden-tassled corn. There is something amazing about the early morning sunlight illuminating a bright green leaf making it look as though it were lit from within, or glinting off the dew making everything appear as though it’s been laced with diamonds… and I want to capture it before it disappears for another 9 months.

Naturally, I never get up early enough to actually accomplish this. I seem to love my bed a little too much. I can literally sleep for hours… especially on a Saturday morning.

But yesterday on my lunch break, I noticed that a few of the trees were not so green anymore. And when I went to the park to eat my lunch, I found it curious that the edges of the very same leaves that last week seemed so fresh and new, are now tinged with another color! Fall is on it’s way.

Autumn has always been my favorite season. I love the explosion of reds, oranges, yellows and purples that seems to happen all at once before the leaves surrender to the cold and drop to the ground. The chill in the air invigorates me! The smell of sugary-sweet foliage and wood smoke makes me want to find that favorite flannel. But when the days get shorter as darkness steals more and more of the light, I am reminded of how fast it goes.

And I don’t just mean the lengthy days of summer… I mean, it ALL goes fast. 

I can’t believe my niece is now the age I was when she was born. I can’t believe that the kids I once taught to swim can now be found at the YMCA, signing their own kids up for the very same lessons. I can’t believe that when I open my mouth, it is now my mother’s words coming out instead of my own. How does it happen? WHEN does it happen?

It happens day after day, night after night, little by little and in giant leaps and bounds. Gradually and all at once. We go about the business of our lives and before we know it, OUR leaves are tinged with another color. We get older, we build families, the youngers become the olders and just like the marching on of fall, winter, spring and summer… The whole pattern will repeat again and again. It’s been going on for centuries, and yet we’re surprised when it happens to us! Just as every fall I am surprised when I see the tips of that very first leaf start to blush…

You’d think by now I’d know.

There is nothing I can do to stop it. In the end, none of my efforts will slow it or even affect it. The best thing I CAN do, the ONLY thing I CAN do is get up early on a Saturday morning and grab my camera while the leaves are still green.